Pioneering System Change from the boardroom

B Lab Switzerland leads the change in Davos in the presence of 100 Swiss Companies

B Lab Europe
5 min readFeb 15, 2023
©B Lab Switzerland, official picture “Amplifying sustainability practices from the boardroom” at the “House of Switzerland” at Davos on January 17th.

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On Tuesday 17th January 2023, at the House of Switzerland during the World Economic Forum, B Lab Switzerland and InTent brought together the #SBA2030 Alliance, CEOs and board members of Swiss and international companies, including B Corps. In this session, business leaders, politicians and government came together to share best practices and tools for respecting planetary boundaries and putting nature, people, and future generations at the heart of corporate governance and regulation.

This event was an opportunity to give concrete examples of the strong themes developed by B Lab Switzerland and its ecosystem:

  • How to put governance tools at the service of nature and humanity?
  • The importance of cooperation and the need to act collectively
  • The need to develop regulatory regulations to support the transformation of the economic system

Three key takeaways from the event are highlighted below.

1) Adopting Stakeholder Governance

Maïlys Serrano, member of Loyco’s Board of Directors, spurred the group forward: “As board members, it is our responsibility as well as that of investors to commit to the journey towards sustainability!”

Companies play a critical role in driving progress and solving social and environmental issues. They must enable us to move forward rather than hinder us in the transition towards a conscious and respectful economy.

To do so, they must embrace stakeholder governance and integrate the impact of their decisions on all stakeholders into their bylaws as a crucial first step. This includes transparent engagement with employees, board members, and the community and prioritizing corporate responsibility towards society and the environment.

Nicola Thibaudeau (Board Member, MPS), Maïlys Serrano (Board member, Loyco) et Nadja Lang (Delegate of the Board of Directors, ZFV Unternehmungen) during a panel discussion on CEOs’ and board members' responsibility.

Tony Goldner, Director of TNFD (Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures) also explained why businesses have a fundamental role to play in tackling climate change and nature degradation. Nature-related risks can be found on company balance sheets and in investment portfolios, yet most companies and boards of directors remain blind to these risks.

Indeed, the key to changing this narrative and getting companies and investors interested, says Tony Goldner, is to elevate the discussion around ‘dependencies’ on nature. It is time to look at nature as our most important technological partner and invest in it. These models could allow us to consider nature as an ‘infrastructure’ that is an integral part of the decision-making process within companies.

2) Collective action: the Private Sector Unites to Act

The world’s challenges, including climate change, require bold collective action from the private sector. Indeed, most of these challenges are linked to global public goods, meaning that solving them benefits everyone, but no single organization (government or company) can solve them alone.

In a fireside chat, Katell Le Goulven — board member of Intent and director of the Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society — and Karl Schmedders — IMD Professor & Economic Theory Fellow — discussed why it is in the interest of businesses to tackle these challenges together. Companies will be better equipped to meet changing citizen expectations and reduce business risks by taking into account all stakeholders, including nature, people, and future generations.

Katell Le Goulven (Board Member, InTent & Director, Hoffmann Institute) et Karl Schmedders (Professor, IMD & Fellow, Game Theory Society) during a “fireside chat” on the power of collective action.

A good example of collective action can be found in the B Corp Beauty Coalition, which brings together stakeholders in the beauty industry to improve social and environmental practices. (improved packaging, responsible innovation, responsible sourcing of ingredients…). “Through the coalition, we are collectively setting the gold standard for sustainable beauty, sharing best practices for packaging, ingredients and logistics to collectively improve our industry,” declares Nataliya Yarmolenko, Board Member at Weleda. One year after its creation, the coalition now counts 53 members across six continents.

3) Strong Regulation to Support Private Action

Stakeholder governance must be supported by legislation to bring about change on a larger scale and faster pace.

The launch of our initiative to strengthen the fiduciary duties of companies, supported by over 600 Swiss organizations, was announced in Davos and aims to shift the focus from financial returns to a renewed attention to the interests of all stakeholders. More companies will be encouraged to act when regulators demand it, as is already the case in Italy, France, and 35 states in the US where B Corps benefit from a special legal status.

Business leaders come and go, markets fluctuate, agendas change. What matters is the end result — the continued preservation of the company’s purpose. It is becoming increasingly clear that companies with an impactful and responsible purpose perform as well or better than their more conventional rivals. The temptation to abandon their commitments will therefore be less pressing in the future.

“Governments, both at a national and a global level, need to support the transformation by changing the rules of the economic game and requiring businesses to act now,” concludes André Hoffmann — Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors Roche Holding Ltd and co-initiator of the #SBA2030.

André Hoffmann (Vice-Chairman, Roche) at the House of Switzerland On January 17th, 2023.

About #SBA2030

In May 2022 in Davos, B Lab Switzerland and InTent launched the Swiss Boards for Agenda 2030 (#SBA2030), an alliance of CEOs and Board Members committed to sustainability. The participants took the lead to expand the responsibilities of their businesses and ensure that decision-making takes into account impacts on all stakeholders — including employees, society at large and the environment. To date, 35 companies joined the SBA2030 in 6 months including Ricola, EBP, Aprotec, L’Occitane.

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“In these times of anxiety and alarming projections, this alliance has come together to inspire, unite, accelerate change and celebrate the courage of those who decide to contribute to the sustainable, desirable and inclusive future to which we all aspire,” states Jonathan Normand, Co-Initiator of #SBA2030.

“There is no sustainable and prosperous future without powerful and long lasting collaborative practices. We need alliances such as the SBA2030 to take ambitious and transformative action for nature restoration.” André Hoffmann, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors Roche Holding Ltd and co-initiator of the #SBA2030.

About B Corp certification

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